Friday, July 23, 2010

Training Or Maintaining?

There has been a lot of discussion lately on various boards and blogs about recalls. Can you ever have 100% reliable recall? Can you have a 100% reliable anything? What does your dogs response time say about their personality? Yours? Your relationship and/or training?

My herding (<-- there’s that word again) instructor asked me how long I think it took to get my dogs to be how they are. How they are is generally well behaved and willing to listen, even if you’re not the one who doles out the kibble. My answer was that it wasn’t about a time frame or a training method. I think it’s about the maintaining. I don’t care if it’s your dogs recall or your house, your job, your car, or your marriage, for that matter, if you don’t maintain it you’ll end up with a bigger mess to deal with than if you had taken care of it in smaller pieces as you went along. It’s about the day to day interaction, not just what happens when you’re actively training.

I suppose one could argue that maintaining is training. You may be right, but I think of training as teaching something that the dog doesn’t already know and maintaining as, well, keeping that training in place.

Like, “I said “lie down,” damnit” Bella (13)

I regularly work on things that matter the most to me. Those things being things that can get your dog killed like a non-existent recall, door manners, boundaries, getting in and out of the car, etc. I also happen to think that the most important thing you can teach your dog is some patience. A little self control.

Like, I could totally bite this sheep in the ass right now but I won’t ‘cause that would make me A Very Bad Dog.
Bella (11)

I try to work these things into everyday stuff. At the park in the mornings I don’t just mindlessly throw a ball. We do stuff. It’s about my dogs interacting with me, not just interacting with airborne spheres. We work on agility stuff: sending out around things, start line stay and the like. We work on patience by having one wait while the other chases. Calling off a thrown ball. Distance work. Etc.

She can keep her distance
Bella (10)

It sounds sort of like I’m in constant training mode. I’m not, really, I just try to make maintaining a part of the game. This not only serves to keep my dogs safe and fairly easy to live with, but it benefits us in our extracurricular activities.

Bella (5)

You develop and maintain a relationship by working on it. Attending to it. I see this a lot with agility people. Mostly the new ones, but some been-here-awhile ones, too. I’m not knocking agility folk, BTW, I’m sure it’s the same with all things dog. That’s just where most of my limited experience lies.

We love agility and its people! Much less dirt involved.
Bella (7)

People don’t seem to get the connection between their relationship off the field and their performance on it. If you don’t interact with your dog during the week, you don’t work or play, you behave as if you are an observer of your dogs’ life instead of an active participant in it you won’t get the results you want. If your dog ignores you in the house or could care less if you are at the park with him or not you have a bigger problem. And, it may not be the training.

And, sometimes you just end up with a dog that just has problems :-)


  1. well said! although i probably fall in the category who's not as consistent as i should be... (blush)

  2. I couldn't agree more. I tell my students all the time "training is a way of life. constant reinforcement of things you find important." If you only work on a behavior for 10min a day or less in very specific situations then of course your dog isn't going to pay attention to it in every day life. You need to make training part of every day life and reinforce things all the time when they happen not just in your set 10 min of "training time" each morning or what have you.

  3. Love the article, I totally agree with you! I'd say I'm best at working with my boys on areas like you mentioned, that could be life threatening if they go wrong. With one of mine being a 4 lb fluff ball there's a lot out there that could hurt him and we're always searching for ways to improve.

  4. I come from a horse-training background (and current reality). There is a saying in that sphere, and in child-rearing, that I firmly believe: "Everything you do is training." I think that's what you're calling maintaining, and I don't see a conflict in that. It's just saying that in everything you do with a dog/horse/child, you are reinforcing (or not) what is okay and what is not. Get slack, and you lose ground -- that's "bad training."

  5. I totally agree. I love to learn knew things and all the time I spend with my parents is bonding, maintaining and training :)

    Paws up to you,

  6. I completely agree with this - well said. So many people act like "training" is a separate time when you take some treats/a toy and work on something, and the rest of the time they let their dog do whatever with no boundaries.

  7. Love Kate! Problems and all!

  8. I agree with everything although I don't use the word maintaining as I do repetition. And teaching my little ones patience has really been something that I struggle with since my husband lets the doggies train him! So sometimes they get confused who their with and who they should listen to so I had to have my husband trained!